Classical music

Wilhelm Furtwängler shaking hands with Hitler after a concert in 1939. Photo: Ullstein Bild/ Getty Images

The truth about Wilhelm Furtwängler

20 October 2018 9:00 am

The morning after the first night of Ronald Harwood’s Taking Sides in May 1995, I received a call from Otto…

Kirill Petrenko conducting the Berlin Philharmonic at the 2018 Proms. Photo: BBC/Chris Christodoulou

The gentle side of Bruckner: Rotterdam Philharmonic's Prom reviewed

8 September 2018 9:00 am

The lady behind me on Kensington Gore clearly felt that she owed her friend an apology: ‘It’s Bruckner. I don’t…

Jozsefs Lendvai and Lendvay with Ivan Fischer and the Budapest Festival Orchestra at the Proms. Image: BBC/Chris Christodoulos

The Budapest Festival Orchestra makes other orchestras look routine and oafish

1 September 2018 9:00 am

Looney Tunes was always at its best when soundtracked by a Hungarian gypsy dance. (Watch ‘Pigs in a Polka’ if…

An exalted experience even without a convincing central character: Siegfried in Edinburgh reviewed

18 August 2018 9:00 am

There’s one big problem with Wagner’s Siegfried, and the clue’s in the name. None of Wagner’s mature works hangs so…

Before the dawn: Sir Edward Elgar, Sir Dan Godfrey, Sir Alexander Mackenzie and Sir Charles Stanford, seated. Standing: Sir Edward German and Sir Hubert Parry. Bournemouth Centenary Festival, 1910

Music's Brexit

11 August 2018 9:00 am

Only by ignoring European taste, and daring to be vulgar, did British music finally come of age, argues Richard Bratby

An embarrassing and misshapen dud: Opera Holland Park’s Isabeau reviewed

21 July 2018 9:00 am

I’ve been trying to pinpoint the exact moment when it became impossible to take Mascagni’s Isabeau seriously. It wasn’t when…

The virtuoso virtue-signallers of classical music

7 July 2018 9:00 am

All my life I’ve wanted to compose music, and now I’ve done it. I’ve written a sonata for solo flute…

Pianist Clifford Curzon, composer Sir Arthur Bliss and musicologist Hans Keller at the very first Leeds International Piano Contest. Photo: Erich Auerbach / Getty Images

You vote for my pupil, I’ll vote for yours – the truth about music competitions

23 June 2018 9:00 am

A young Korean, 22 years old, won the Dublin International Piano Competition last month. Nothing unusual about that. Koreans and…

Detail of Cantata ‘Es ist das Heil’, BWV9

I don't get why people worship Bach

16 June 2018 9:00 am

I don’t get Johann Sebastian Bach. I mean, I get that he was good — no Mozart, sure, but definitely…

Garsington makes as good a case as you can for Strauss's frothy Capriccio

9 June 2018 9:00 am

‘Is there an end [to this opera] that is not trivial?’ asks the Countess in her final bars of Richard…

Cold and confusing: Garsington's Die Zauberflöte reviewed

9 June 2018 9:00 am

The picnic hamper’s open, the bubbly is chilled, and country house opera is starting to eat itself. When you arrive…

One of the last remaining all-boys' choirs in Britain, St George's Chapel Choir, which sang in the recent royal wedding in Windsor

I dread the extinction of boys’ choirs

2 June 2018 9:00 am

One by one, cathedrals have succumbed to the inevitable. In blazes of publicity, with front-page photographs of girls in cassocks…

How does David Matthews get away with writing symphonies with tunes in them?

19 May 2018 9:00 am

‘All fish in flood and fowl of flight/ Be mirthful now and make melody’ writes the poet William Dunbar in…

How hospices make you think differently about life

19 May 2018 9:00 am

The timing of the Today programme’s series about hospices could not have been more apt, coming as it did so…

Dudamel's Amériques made The Rite of Spring sound like Einaudi

12 May 2018 9:00 am

Apparently it’s called ‘expectation management’. Pollux, Esa-Pekka Salonen’s new work for the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, takes its name from…

An unmitigated triumph: Salome at Opera North reviewed

28 April 2018 9:00 am

Salome is my favourite opera by Richard Strauss, the only one where there is no danger, at any point, of…

Why be so frightened of Enoch Powell’s speech now?

21 April 2018 9:00 am

It was a provocative decision by the producers of Archive on 4, 50 Years On: Rivers of Blood (Nathan Gower…

Martha Kearney’s arrival at Today is a breath of fresh air

14 April 2018 9:00 am

Like a breath of fresh air Martha Kearney has arrived on Radio 4’s Today programme, taking over from Sarah Montague…

The greatest recording of Mozart's Requiem

14 April 2018 9:00 am

Glenn Gould used to say that Mozart died too late rather than too early. The remark was intended to get…

Iceland’s national composer returns from oblivion

7 April 2018 9:00 am

The lur is a horn, modelled in bronze after a number of 3,000-year-old instruments discovered at various archaeological sites across…

How Debussy slipped past Wagner into the unknown

31 March 2018 9:00 am

A spectre haunted the first weekend of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra’s Debussy Festival: the spectre of Richard Wagner.…

A short history of French musical decadence

10 March 2018 9:00 am

My two attempts to see Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites at the Guildhall School were frustrated by the weather. Forced back…

Remembering one of the best – and bitchiest – pianists who ever lived

3 March 2018 9:00 am

I’m unlucky with Beethoven’s Appassionata Sonata. Twice in the past year I’ve bolted for the exit as soon the pianist…

Conduct unbecoming: clockwise from top left, Leonard Bernstein, Wilhelm Furtwängler, Charles Dutoit and James Levine

The sex lives of conductors

20 January 2018 9:00 am

Norman Lebrecht on classical music’s dirty secret

Claude Debussy and his daughter Chouchou near Arcachon, France, 1915

Debussy, Tippett and Wagner: the musical treats of 2018

6 January 2018 9:00 am

Richard Bratby on the musical treats in store over the year to come